May Day In France

Today is May the first, a holiday.  We are suppose to have rain today and tomorrow, Sunday will be clear and warm and then back to rain.  Looks like I won’t get in much weed whacking in the next few days although the grass and weeds are nearing the three foot mark in my back yard, or garden, as they like to call it on the continent.  Last week had been warm and sunny, now it will be cool and rainy for a few days, a week.  Not a real problem since I need to clean the house, cut and split the firewood, and start other little chores like taking the shutters off the windows.  I may even move furniture around, haven’t decided.  But the phone and internet connection works.  I didn’t get a dish for television so none of that.  If I want to watch a movie I have two dozen on my laptop to keep me occupied and there is always YouTube.  Mostly I play the CDs that I downloaded to memory sticks and plug into my Sony radio/CD player/USB player.  You know, you can’t find any electronic device except a laptop that will use a USB memory stick in the US.  There are plenty of them over here but none in the US.

Meanwhile, getting use to the time change is difficult, something that takes a couple of days.  Then there are those little things that always crop up.  I found out that my cell phone won’t work over here.  It did two years ago and now it doesn’t, go figure.  There are very few public telephones in France but you can blame that on Orange, which is the name of the old France Telecom, the public telephone network.  Like most of the European countries, the government owned the telegraph and the telephone systems.  They were part of the postal system.  In the centerville of Dijon is a beautiful Art Nouveau building of four or five stories that housed the old Post, Telegraph and Telephone offices.  I’ve never been in it but maybe I will take a look this year.  But that will have to wait since the clutch pedal on my Spanish Seat (Volkswagen running gear and body, just poor trim) broke and the village mechanic will have to find the right part for a 15 year old car.  It is a 1.9 TDI and goes like a bat out of hell, a lot of power combined with a light body.  It will cruise at 160 KPS (100 MPH) on the toll roads easy enough.  Over here, people tend to keep their vehicles until they wear out, so the used car marker is far smaller than in the states and the prices much higher.  And one does not see much in the way of pickup trucks, many people have trailers, which is not a bad way to deal with hauling stuff.

Grocery shopping is different.  Oh, there are the can goods and frozen foods, not too much different there except for the variety and type.  And one finds far more varieties of yogurt, deserts, pates, cold cuts, and cheeses.  Oh my, the cheeses, far more varieties of cheese and no Velveeta.  France has over 256 varieties of cheese and as Charles De Gaul said, to paraphrase, any country with that many varieties is impossible to govern well.  Now you aren’t going to fnd 256 varieties, even at E Leclerc, the big box store.  But you will see fifty, maybe sixty at some of the larger stores.  As for bread, not too much variety in the packaged stuff.  The local boulangerie may have  dozen different fresh baked varieties along with some desert types.  But you just won’t find Wonder Bread and the rest.  And not too many places have tortillas either.  Cuts of meat are greatly different as well.  No T-Bone steak, no New York cut, it’s all cut a bit different.  Of course chicken is chicken but the chicken is smaller here.  Lots of turkey cuts and duck.  The sausages are different and there are many different varieties and styles.  And of course, there is the Creme Brulee in glass containers.  Yeah, most use plastic, but I love the ones in glass the best.  Nice small amounts and you can add your own brown sugar sprinkled on top and blow torched to a nice crisp golden brown.  Then there is the wine.  Screw California cab, one can find very good bordeaux for five or six euros,  And at the ten euros range, it gets even better.  Once you get to twenty euros, most of the California cabs and merlots simply can’t compete.  I can buy (and have some in my cellar here) Pomerols for that ten euro range that any California merlot look bad.  And the Saint Emilions are great too.  Ten there is burgundy.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times, California Pinot Noir sucks.  I have drunk many of the best burgundies from the vintages of the forties onward and there is no comparison.  The only problem is that the demand has jacked up the prices to a point where I can only afford the average burgundy.  So every once in a while I can afford to buy a specific vineyard wine such as a Corton and sit and drink to old memories of great wines.  Romanee Conti is just a faded memory on the taste bud and in the nose.  To think that fools gladly pay upwards of $25,000 a bottle is beyond belief.  I only paid $100 for a bottle of 1955, one of the best vintages of last century for that wine.  Still, the first growth of Bordeaux are no bargains either, often priced at $600 plus, depending on the vintage.  I miss my Chateau Latour but I am happy when I can find a fifth growth at 20 euros a bottle.  Most of what I drink now are half that price or less.  Very good wines, even it the off years.  The little fellows are less affected in quality in the lessor years than the expensive houses.  Not that a 2008 Ch Latour would make for a bad drinking experience, mind you, I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up.  So one buys the 2000 and 2005 and the 2009 vintages when they are first released and puts them away for a while.  Which reminds me, I should start drinking the 2005s this year.


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